A Soft White 3D Lightbulb, by way of Myst

Last weekend I got it in my head to replay the old Cyan Studios game 'Myst.' Myst was epic in its day. It's too hard for me to concisely express all the reasons Myst was such a landmark game, and its not the purpose of this post to try, so I'll simply point to its most distinguishing characteristic: It was pre-rendered.

While other game developers and hackers were trying to come up with ever more efficient ways to calculate and render objects live, the creators of Myst went just the opposite way. They put their efforts into creating as "realistic" a 3d environment as they were then apt to, with little concern for rendering engines. Myst heralded the age of click-through 3d environments. Beautifully rendered environments presented primarily as static, pre-rendered images. Depth was added to these environments by splicing pre-rendered animations over-top, making all interaction with the game world into a truly cinematic event.

Well, I downloaded Myst and bested it in no more than eight hours. I'd played and completed it once before, mind you, when I was a child. But I was left so hungered for more of this thoughtful, rational, intellectual, and artistic style of play that I immediately sought out another game, 'Riven: The Sequel to Myst.' This I'd never played before. In fact I would discover there were a total of four sequels to Myst of which I'd never been aware. But I begin again to digress.

I'm playing Riven now and I have no qualms saying that the quality of the graphics and the 3d designs are up to par with, only where they do not wholly surpass, the games being released today. This from a game produced in 1997! Again, Riven benefits from pre-rendering, where the games I have to compare it to are all live-rendered; but I count it a strike against today's developers that they have chosen to shackle themselves and their artistic abilities to the limits of an live-rendering engine. Not everything has to be first person shooters, you know.

In any event I find myself artistically inspired by the visual beauty, the profoundly intellectual and challenging gameplay, and the pre-rendered delivery concept of Myst and its successor Riven. I've started drawing out my own, admittedly derivative, ideas for environments and landscapes. Playing Riven especially, has set my mind to a style of creativity I've not known myself capable of for years. This is the mind of a child at play with toy soldiers or an author whose finest arts are in fiction; in creating complex, subtle, nuanced worlds and characters whose every action and thought has a purpose, unfamiliar but logical and easily understood.

I've found myself penciling out ideas for structures: elevated huts in floodlands that solve the inconveniences of seasonal flooding in the most simple, droll, and subtle ways; Floating towers whose very structure mimics the cruelties of the class-based economy; Flat desert landscapes speckled with pyramid-styled homes hewn of rough-stone, grouped together into tiny townships interspaced between huge, cylindrical depressions in the earth where industrial structures, pipelines and catwalks, glint hateful scowls toward the land they occupy in the noon-time sun.

These ideas are mainly far beyond my abilities to recreate in 3d, or at least beyond my sustainable interest in doing so. Nonetheless one of them seems momentarily manageable and sufficiently curious, and I've the will to try.

Last night, as a sort of precursor to gauge my waning skills I chose a simple object from around the house to model with an eye toward photo-realism. Well, more like semi-photo-realism. Anyway, I knew how good I wanted it to look and today I finished what started last night, meeting my own criterion for completion of the model and refreshing my basic knowledge of Blender, the 3d suite I'm modeling with.

Soft white lightbulb.

[Update: Re-rendered under much more thoughtful and appropriate lighting conditions, and sans the ugly textured plane.]

A little light goes a long way.

Now onto marshland tree-huts with elevated docks and spiral staircases and canoes on ziplines...


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